When it comes to re-screens, the requirement to have a contractors license is a gray area. I’ve asked a few officials from the DBPR and gotten mixed responses as to whether the state requires/enforces a contractors license. Some have said that it (a contractors license) is required by state law. Others have said that it is required but it is subject to local building departments. Other have said that ithe question should be brought before the state licensing board for review. Interesting however, according to a paper prepared by the Alliance of Florida Contractors (AFC), and the Aluminum Association of Florida (AAF), the Florida Statues regarding contractor licensing do require a contractors license as described by the states ‘Specialty’ license scope. Palm Beach county agreed for this reason (among others) and adopted. Many other cities and counties do require a contractors license for this work by their ordinances.
Enough with the technicality though. I said “real deal”, so lets talk about why I wouldn’t let an unlicensed contractor re-screen my pool cage. This isn’t the typical ‘liability & scams’ information. It is a practical approach with my first hand industry knowledge and experience.
First of all, you have understand what a ‘contractors license’ signifies. You might be thinking, the ‘obvious competency at a particular trade’. Yes, that is that one thing, however I know many tradesman who are very experienced, but not licensed. Much more important then competency, a contractors license signifies an ability to maintain professionalism and keep their business affairs in order. That explains why many tradesmen aren’t licensed. Getting a contractors license isn’t exactly difficult but it does require some business intellect and professionalism. To get a contractors license, you have to be able to study from a number of large textbooks primarily unguided to pass a test. In Florida that also means a finance & business law test which is akin to a graduate degree level. You also need to be able to pass criminal background check, and a financial stability check — credit score of 670, no judgements, no affiliations with bankrupt companies, and and much more. Once the test is passed, then you have a tedious looooong application with documentation to complete. So tedious that I believe about 20% of people who pass the tests, just never apply for the license.
I don’t see what is so hard, anyone can do that. WRONG. I know many great tradesman. I’ve managed them for years. Professional and competent adults, many are not. They have turned my hair grey. In the screen enclosure business it is not uncommon to see guys that make $1500-$2000 in a week (yes they make that much), get paid on a Friday and beg the boss for a ‘loan’ or ‘pay advancement’ on Monday or simply not show up because they can’t afford gas to get to work. I have had to fire these guys while they are asleep or using drugs on the job (thats where the money went). I have seen them come and go out of jail. These are the same guys that are rolling around in a truck, trying to sell you a re-screen while they are not licensed. Unfortunately unless they have a major lifestyle change they will never be licensed. Are these the kinds of people you want to give a deposit to, and hope they show up tomorrow? Are these the people you want to call back in 6 months if there is a problem (heads up their phone will be turned off)?
So where are the great screen enclosure tradesman then? Simple, they are working for a licensed contractor making the $1500-2000 a week that comes with no headache. They are saving money, and either hoping to get into management, or studying up to get licensed and start off selling re-screens and enclosures from their truck WITH A CONTRACTORS LICENSE, just like I did (I went the management route).
So no, it isn’t that hard to get a contractors license. But it is too difficult for the unlicensed guys — hence why they are unlicensed.